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How to Write Essay 1 of ISB PGP Application

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

How to Write Essay 1 of ISB PGP Application

ISB has released the online application form for ISB PGP Class of 2024 and as expected, ISB has changed the Essay 1 topic. Historically, ISB mostly changes the topic of Essay 1 every 2 years, while the Essay 2 (Goals Essay) topic remains the same.

The new ISB PGP Essay 1 topic is as follows:

“Peer Learning is a major building block of PGP at ISB. Help us in understanding how will you be able to add value to the PGP Peer Group through your personal and professional qualities/capabilities”

The 51-week long ISB Program is not only a fast-track program but also one with an extremely diverse cohort and hence, it comes as no surprise that ISB stresses a lot on peer learning. Moreover, every top B-school wants to know from its applicants how can they contribute to the MBA program and with this essay ISB aims to gauge the same.

Before you go ahead with writing this essay, please take some time and do some self-reflection on your academic and professional qualities/capabilities/achievements. Ideally, make a list of everything that comes to your mind.

Within 400 words, you can talk about at-most 3 distinct qualities/capabilities/achievement of yours through which you will be able to contribute to peer learning at ISB.

Here are the some of the qualities/capabilities bucket that you might want to consider:

  1. Academic/Scholastic Edge

  2. Professional Expertise

  3. Entrepreneurial Experience

  4. Leadership (Team Management) Experience

  5. Diverse Extra-Curricular Achievements

1. Academic/Scholastic Edge

Choose this if you have,

a) Exceptional quantitative skills

b) Exemplary academic record - college/school/district/university topper, etc.

c) Patents or research papers in reputed journals

d) Subject matter expertise (deep and unique knowledge in a particular field)

e) International or National-level awards and scholarships

f) Significant and relevant certifications

Describe your achievements/capabilities in brief and then explain how will you be able to contribute to the competitive cohort by helping your peers excel in assignments, case study discussion, B-school competitions, live projects, etc.

2. Professional Expertise

Choose this if you have

  1. Years of experience in a particular industry/domain/functional area

  2. Series of professional achievements – quantifiable impact, promotions, etc.

  3. Exposure to wide variety of roles, cultures, geographies, domains, etc.

  4. Early-stage startup experience

B-Schools also prefer professionally mature candidates and hence more than 10% of the batch at ISB comprise of Senior Executives (having 8+ years of work experience). If you have nuanced knowledge of a particular industry/function/domain because of many years of work experience, you can mention that you will be able to help your peers in building their industry knowledge, introducing your own perspective, and thought process during case study discussions because of your years of experience and will help your peers in every way possible leveraging your wealth of experience.

Applicants with tech background can mention that they will be able to help their non-tech peers to understand the nuances of Product Management and Tech Consulting - both of which are sought-after jobs at ISB as well as help them in tech-oriented electives.

Likewise, people with specific industry experience (such as Healthcare, Real Estate, Public Policy, etc.) can mention that they can help their peers who are interested in getting industry specialization at ISB to get their foot in the door within a specific industry.

People who have worked with an early-stage startup bring unique perspectives and ideas with them and they can also help their peers with their knowledge of building a product and/or acquiring customers for a new product.

3. Entrepreneurial Experience

Entrepreneurs constitute a small but significant part of ISB cohort because they bring with themselves a few unique skillsets that others don’t - fundraising, network with VCs and Angel Investors, investor relations, building from 0 to 1, how to achieve PMF (Product-Market Fit), etc.

If you have been an entrepreneur, you can mention how you can help your peers with these unique skillsets who want to build their own startup in the future. You can also mention that you would contribute to the EVC Club (Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club) at ISB.

4. Leadership/Team Management Experience

You should choose this if you have team/people management experience - something which is highly valued in an MBA application. Please note that such experience need not be strictly professional - if you have created an impact by leading a group of people even outside a corporate setting (such as at an NGO), you can use this topic.

In the essay, convey your potential for making an impact, examples of your achievements as a leader and then eventually mention how can you help your peers at ISB. You can mention that you would take a POR (Position of Responsibility) at the ISB GSB (Graduate Student Body) or at one of the professional or social clubs. You can also talk about any new initiatives that you may want to take or a cause for which you want to take a stand.

5. Diverse Extra-Curricular Achievements

If you have significant achievements outside the workplace (Sports, Arts, Social Work, Content Creation, Language Learning, Toastmasters, Event Management, Fitness etc), you can mention it in the essay. It can help you to fill the gaps in your profile if you do not have very strong achievements to show at your workplace.

You can mention that with your rich experience in a particular activity, you bring a unique perspective which can help to organize similar activities for the Social Clubs at ISB (or even lead one of the social clubs), and enhance student involvement in the same.

6. Other Virtues/Capabilities/Qualities

Apart from the above-mentioned capabilities, there are many more virtues that you can mention (if you have strong experience/examples):

  1. Exceptional Communication/Interpersonal/Presentation skills - You can mention that through these you will be able to contribute to class presentations, B-School competitions, and similar team projects.

  2. Mentorship - You can mention this if you have mentored people in your professional/personal life. Accordingly, you can explain that you would be able to mentor your peers in specific knowledge areas (for example, industry knowledge, domain deep-dive, functional know-how, etc.), if needed.

You can find many other virtues listed in Dr. Kumar Anshul's (Faith Career's co-founder) blog post for the past topic of Essay 1 of ISB here -

Structure of the Essay

Once you have decided all the virtues/capabilities/achievements that you want to include, you need to start writing the essay in a proper format. The following structure is recommended.

Introductory Paragraph

Please summarize your entire professional experience in NO MORE THAN 2 sentences.

Below is an example,

“During my 9 years of working as a Supply Chain & Tooling professional for a PSU, I have undertaken key technical assignments & procurement exercises, managed transition during policy & regimen changes (such as CST to GST, tender to GeM portal etc.) and developed a nuanced understanding of government machinery. I have lead cross-functional teams, systematically managed stakeholders (internal & external customers, vendors, agencies, etc.) and initiated multiple epoch-making changes in existing practices”

Second Paragraph - First Capability/Quality

Start with describing your capability with examples and then end with how you will help your peers.

Third Paragraph - Second Capability/Quality

Maintain a flow in your essay and describe your next capability with examples and culminate with how you will help your peers.

Fourth Paragraph - Third Capability/Quality

This paragraph should talk about your last capability/quality along with clear examples. You should finish the paragraph by stating how your experience and expertise will benefit your classmates.

Last Paragraph (Conclusion)

The conclusion should firmly conclude that after being a part of ISB PGP cohort, you will immensely contribute to peer learning.

For example,

“I am confident that my rich experience in_____ and/or my ability to _______ will add value to my cohort at ISB and I also hope to learn from my peers, and be a part of the process of personal and professional development.”

Do you want to start your ISB application with Faith Career's help?

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